Free Therapy No. 10: Full Circle

“We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness.” 

Thich Nhat Hanh

Sometimes when my mind tells me I have achieved a higher level of spiritual maturity, life and circumstance have a way of bringing me back to earth.

For example, I love my job, which involves sitting with my clients as we identify the obstacles blocking their efforts to find peace and power.  At times I feel like I’m in a “zone,” an almost meditative state of peaceful awareness and empathy.  From that gentle, safe place we can deconstruct the predicaments and pitfalls preventing them from achieving their life goals and objectives.  In particular, we attend to “the monkey mind,” the restless, endless stream of senseless chatter we mistake for our intelligence.  At days end, I usually feel good and accept my own mind’s self-congratulations.

Pretty quickly, however, my life or my wife reminds me I am just a guy named Doug, not a wizard named Dr. Craig.  I am just me, a person like every other human being on the planet, with my own monkey mind and ego, my own unexamined expectations, control strategies, desires, fears, resentments, frustrations, needs, guilt and shame.  They are all there like an unruly class of first graders, demanding my attention and distracting me from my plan for peace and quietude.

How does this happen?  Why is it so hard to gain and then retain a peaceful mind in the midst of stress, conflict, politics, traffic, financial insecurity, family and work demands and pressures?  Are we helplessly controlled by these external conditions or do we unintentionally give them power when we fail to see how our own mischievous mind messes with our serenity and peace?

I have struggled with these questions almost all my life.  When I was a teenager in the 1970s I read Be Here Now by Ram Dass, Das Energi by Paul Williams, This Is It by Alan Watts, the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching, and various books about Zen Buddhism.  I was hungry for spiritual knowledge and truth and this led me to drop out of college before I had even started, freaking my poor parents out a bit.  I was enrolled at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, had my roommate assignment and I did my orientation with my parents and then I changed my mind.

Instead, I found myself moving into the Ghetto’s Palace Yoga Institute in an abandoned theater on the Westside of Dayton, Ohio, with yoga master Wali Ahmed Sababu and dozens of other white middle class refugees from American suburbia in their late teens and early 20s.  And there I stayed for the next two years, meditating, chanting and teaching hatha yoga.

The Palace family eventually fractured and fell apart like many new age ashrams in the 70s and we all went our separate ways.  I went to college, graduated, got married, started graduate school, got divorced, finished grad school, moved to California, got licensed, remarried, opened my private practice, had two daughters, watched them grow up and become the age I once was when I lived at the Palace.   Young and alive with everything before them.

The interesting part of all this is that I am no longer the person that I once was and yet I am exactly that same person.  I once had long, full wavy brown hair that hung past my shoulders and now what little hair I still have is quite gray.  My body hurts in ways that I could not imagine 38 years ago and yet deep within this physical frame is a sense of myself that remains as he has always been.

The problem with getting so much spiritual juice so early is that it could make one lazy later on in life.  Sometimes my soul feels slothful.  I have coasted too long, loitered around the rim of the holy volcano, reluctant to plunge more deeply in.

In the last two years I have reconnected with old friends from the Palace days including Steve, who at 18 was a year younger than me when we first met in 1975.  Like many others before him, he recommended I read the writings of Eckhart Tolle, an enlightened being who has gained direct knowledge of the spiritual truths many of us only know as words, ideas and concepts.

And so I have.  My life has come full circle.  I am returning where I started.  Tolle reminds us we are all part of something larger than our individual selves and the sooner we realize this, the sooner we can all wake up together.

Doug Craig graduated from college in Ohio with a journalism degree and got married during the Carter administration. He graduated from graduate school with a doctorate in Psychology, got divorced, moved to Redding, re-married and started his private practice during the Reagan administration. He had his kids during the first Bush administration. Since then he has done nothing noteworthy besides write a little poetry, survive a motorcycle crash, buy and sell an electric car, raise his kids, manage to stay married and maintain his practice for almost 25 years. He believes in magic and is a Sacramento Kings fan.

Douglas Craig
Doug Craig graduated from college in Ohio with a journalism degree and got married during the Carter administration. He graduated from graduate school with a doctorate in Psychology, got divorced, moved to Redding, re-married and started his private practice during the Reagan administration. He had his kids during the first Bush administration. Since then he has done nothing noteworthy besides write a little poetry, survive a motorcycle crash, buy and sell an electric car, raise his kids, manage to stay married and maintain his practice for almost 30 years. He believes in magic and is a Dawes fan.
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4 Responses

  1. Avatar James H says:

    Thank you for sharing that. It relates to my situation while attending school. There are times when I feel I am in "the zone" too

  2. Avatar Charlie says:

    A powerful story, sir, one with which I wholeheartedly identify. Earlier in my life I thought wisdom accumulative. Now I believe living gives us a series of developmental challenges, each one requiring learning anew and developing fresh skills. Unless we live sealed in a cave, the multiple stimuli — marathon bombs, school shootings, unemployment, filibusters, aging, misplacing things ad infinitum — jar our serenity and we have to continually learn and employ tools/techniques to restore our equilibrium. To have any mindfulness, I must recapture it many times a day. If anything is cumulative, it is the awareness that in our human tragi-comedy, like it or not, we are inescapably one with each other and everything else. I long for the day we might wake up together and prove we're a better evolutionary experiment than the dinosaurs.

  3. Avatar `AJacoby says:

    You had me with your first sentence . . . then I got to the part where you likened our "monkey mind" to a class of unruly first graders (although mine sometimes slips into preschool) and I thought. Exactly! That describes my current state of consciousness to a 'T' . . . o.k., check that one off . . . then my monkey mind wandered off somewhere again.

    Thanks for your insightful sharing . . .

  4. Avatar Joanne Snyder says:

    Thank you for this extraordinary article. Thank you for sharing this wonderful history.